Move Station 3?
Legaility, public process questioned in plan

       The Colorado Springs City Attorney's Office has been directed to review a Fire Department proposal that includes relocating the Westside's Station 3 to a larger site in the area.
       The plan, which would also make Station 3 the primary responder to the downtown, was questioned by Jerry Heimlicher and Scott Hente, whose City Council districts take in parts of the Westside; as well as Sallie Clark, a former council member who led the fight to keep Station 3 from closure in the late '90s.
       None specifically criticized the Fire Department plan, but focused on the process the department used in bringing the proposal forward.
       Heimlicher said he was not the only council member displeased that Fire Chief Manuel Navarro spoke to council - at its informal meeting Jan. 26 - without providing prior information and after evidently “leaking” an advance on the story to the local daily newspaper.
       Hente and Clark separately suggested that in considering station moves the department needs to nurture citizen involvement. “You'd be surprised how much residents know who live in the neighborhood,” Clark said.
        The legal issue relates to the idea of using funding authorized in the ballot issue, passed by voters in August 2001, to carry out the plan. The ballot question specified that the .4-cent sales tax increase was to be used for “three additional fire stations and necessary staff and equipment, two new aerial truck companies and relocation of a fire station to optimize deployment.” The relocated station was identified as Station 14.
       However, the Fire Department plan calls for using the tax proceeds to relocate Stations 8, 1 and 3, at a cost of about $6.6 million, with the idea of providing more equitable response times - particularly to mutlifamily residential buildings east of downtown that are at high risk to fire. Station 1 is the current downtown station, leaving some council members uneasy at the prospect of no longer having a station in the actual downtown.
       Navarro told council at the Jan. 26 meeting that the ballot issue's intent was “improvement of response times,” thus making his plan legally appropriate.
       While the attorney is researching, Navarro was directed by council to begin forming a citizen task force to help with his planning.
       “There has been a lot of emotional reaction to the 'leaked' plans harkening back to the Fire Station 3 situation of several years ago,” Heimlicher e-mailed the Westside Pioneer. “We will not let that happen again. At the same time, we pay professionals to run the Fire Department and Police Department and they do a wonderful job.”

Westside Pioneer article